Former Liberian President Convicted of Slavery

On April 27, 2012, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted of “aiding and abetting” crimes against humanity including murder, rape, and slavery while assisting the rebel movement in Sierra Leone during the country’s brutal civil war.

This verdict signals the first judgment of its kind against a former head of state; a major step in holding country leaders responsible for their actions.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor as he waits for the verdict in Leidschendam, near The Hague, Netherlands, April 26, 2012. (Pool,AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Taylor was first arrested in 2006 and was ultimately charged  by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone with 11 counts of war crimes including sexual slavery and enlisting child soldiers during wars with Liberia and Sierra Leone where more than 50,000 people were killed. During Sierra Leone’s 11 year civil war, Taylor aided rebels in the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Though Taylor was not in charge of the rebel movement itself, his assistance enabled these rebels to inflict unspeakable horrors and slaughter thousands of innocent individuals. Taylor supplied advice, arms & ammunition, communications, and transport to the rebels. Therefore, Taylor must bear some of the responsibility as he was well aware of what was occurring in the region.

Though Taylor denied all charges and  never actually set foot in Sierra Leone where crimes such as using young girls as sex slaves, forcing young boys to go into battle, and killing/maiming civilians occurred, the prosecution was able to prove that he provided “sustained and significant support to the RUF rebels.”

Why would Taylor back these rebels? The answer is simple – blood diamonds. In exchange for his support, Taylor received thousands of dollars worth of blood diamonds. How a leader of a country can accept such a payment for the murder, maiming, and/or rape of 1.2 million people is beyond comprehension.

This ruling is quite a significant one.

It marks the first ruling in a UN Special Court where a high level leader was held accountable to their actions, even if he was not the one physically committing murder. One can only hope that this trend will continue and be a lesson to other world leaders; a leader’s power does not make them impervious to the law.

It would be safe to assume that Taylor will appeal the decision despite the unanimous conviction from the three UN Special Court judges. However, it is more likely that 64 yr old Taylor will be spending the rest of his life in jail. Taylor is due to be sentenced on May 30, 2012.

 

Sources:

http://ftsblog.net/2012/04/27/former-liberia-president-convicted-of-slavery/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+FtsBlog+%28FTS+Blog%29

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/charles-taylor-former-liberian-leader-found-guilty-of-war-crimes/2012/04/26/gIQAlYJAjT_story.html

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/04/201242693846498785.html

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